Appreciative inquiry

Appreciative inquiry involves identifying the past or current strengths of an organisation. Focusing exclusively on positive experiences, these insights are used as a starting point to build a picture of the organisation’s future. Because this vision is grounded in real experience and history, people know how to repeat or build on the organisation’s success.  

The core principle is to build your organisation around what works, rather than trying to fix what doesn't. Appreciative inquiry attempts to counter-act the tendency of many organisations to focus more readily on the negative or less successful elements of their work. The technique assumes that an organisation’s outlook will be self-fulfilling. By encouraging people to take an exclusively positive stance towards their work, the technique aims to boost people’s ambition for creating an even better, more successful organisation.

The technique can also be used to identify what you admire in other organisations, as a way of opening up options and choices for your own future.

Taking a positive starting point to thinking about future direction can bring energy and excitement to your strategic planning process.

Benefits

Acknowledgement and celebration of achievements is important. Many organisations do not take time to reflect on how far they have come, or to celebrate their progress. Appreciative inquiry can re-motivate your team, putting them in a positive and more aspirational frame of mind for moving forward. Appreciative inquiry can be particularly useful for exploring the values of your organisation.

Limitations

Although appreciate inquiry provides an opportunity to counter-balance negativities, this doesn’t mean you should ignore aspects of your work which haven’t gone so well in the past.

When to use it

This technique can help you to clarify your organisation’s purpose and to look inside your organisation to assess your strengths. You could also use it to look out at other organisations around you.

What are your experiences of using this tool? Share your triumphs and tribulations with our network members or write your own tips by commenting on this page.

Read more about appreciative inquiry.

Last updated at 17:54 Mon 12/Apr/10.

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